My Second Letter to Governor Cuomo to Veto A5036-B / S4845-B

This is my response to the efforts of Tim Monti-Wohlpart and company, Friends of “CLEAN” adoption reform, dated Jul 9, 2017.

I am pleased with the petition update and the sound arguments presented in this petition (which you can read here).

I stand by my fellow adoptees in promoting the veto of New York State’s Mother-May-I bills and the advance of the “clean” bills.

However, as my following letter to Governor Cuomo indicates, I do not think that the alternative Adoptee Rights Bills S5169-A / A6821-A are completely “clean” bills.

 

 

The Honorable Andrew M. Cuomo
Governor of New York State
NYS State Capitol Building
Albany, NY 12224

Dear Governor Cuomo,

While I applaud, support and defend this effort by “Friends of “CLEAN” adoption reform”, I disagree with it in part. Here is why:

Tim Monti-Wohlpart of Brooklyn, New York and “Friends of “Clean” adoption reform” promote the alternative bills S5169-A / A6821-A as “Clean” reform that “will allow all adult adoptees to gain unrestricted access to their original birth certificates.”

While it is true that the bills that have passed the Senate and Assembly and await your signature (A5036-B / S4845-B) will indeed, if passed into law, further erode adoptees’ civil rights by giving rights to parents who either willingly signed surrender papers that removed their parental rights or their rights were terminated, it is NOT true that moving forward the alternate bills S5169-A / A6821-A will be “clean reform” that “will allow all adult adoptees to gain unrestricted access to their original birth certificates.”

I must be very clear. Unrestrictive access-bills, while significantly better than restrictive access bills and laws, really do not restore any civil rights to adoptees at all. The only right that will be granted is the right to obtain an uncertified copy of the sealed birth certificate. That released document will be issued with some sort of stamped declaration on the front, such as “For Genealogical Purposes Only”, or “VOID Not For Official Use”, or “Pre-Adoption Birth Certificate”, or some other statement which will prevent the adopted person from ever using the document as identification. All amended birth certificates issued to adoptees upon adoption will still remain as the operable birth certificate. That means that the identity theft perpetrated upon adoptees at the signing of the finalization of adoption will still be in effect.

In order for all identity civil rights to be 100% restored to all New York State adopted people, the 1935 law that binds us now must be repealed and replaced with reality-based documentation of birth for all New York State citizens. Non-adopted and adopted alike must have equal rights protecting the civil right to own and use as identification their own medical record of live birth.

No access bill will accomplish this.

If the 1935 law would be repealed and replaced by reality-based documentation of live birth, then, prospectively, no adopter (straight or gay or lesbian) would have the right to overwrite the medical record of live birth with an amended birth certificate that swaps out the name of the child at birth, swaps out the names of the parents of conception and birth, and replaces these names with the new name of the child and the names of the strangers who adopt the child.

The system of recording “births” for adoptees is based upon lies. This must end with the solid conviction that every single human being has the inalienable – absolute – right to the truth of their own birth and to be who they were named at birth.

Reality-based documentation of birth would also mean that, retroactively, all New York State adopted citizens would have the right to obtain a certified copy of their now-sealed medical record of live birth, annul their current birth certificate that was created upon their adoption, change their name back to their name of birth, or, choose to receive an uncertified copy of their medical record of live birth (birth certificate) with words stamped across it indicating that the document is not to be used as identification, and that the amended birth certificate issued upon adoption would remain as the adopted person’s legal identity.

Because adoption changes verifiable reality on paper, we must face facts. Non-adopted people are issued a medical record of live birth which is the record of the facts of their birth. Adoptees are issued this document, too. It is only upon adoption that the medical record of live birth is revoked, and sealed, and a new, amended, birth certificate issued with the new adoption facts replacing the realities of birth. The only statements of truth that remain on the falsified birth certificate are the Registered Number assigned to the child at birth, the birth date (maybe, adopters in some states are allowed to change the birth date), perhaps the hospital in which the birth took place, and the town or city of birth (in some states the adopters are allowed to change this as well).

If mere access is all you want, then, by all means, promote only the “clean” bills S5169-A / A6821-A that “will allow all adult adoptees to gain unrestricted access to their original birth certificates.”

What does “Unrestricted access” mean? It means that the adopted person has the right to obtain an uncertified copy of their now-revoked and now-sealed medical record of live birth without begging permission from the very parents who signed away their parental rights, or to be subjected to the decisions of a judge.

Unrestricted access does not make adoptees completely equal to non-adopted American citizens.

In order for all adoptees to be completely equal to non-adopted people, our birth certificates must be restored to their original intent: to be the official record of our births. We must be free to obtain and use this document without interference from adopters, parents who relinquished their rights, and state governments that would remove our rights to the truth of our births.

These have been my views since March of 1974 when I first laid eyes on my two different birth certificates. I KNEW at age 18 that this theft of my identity was morally, ethically, and legally wrong. I will fight till my dying breath for the return of my birth rights and that of all adoptees in New York State, in America, and the world – because adoptees’ true identities have been legally erased.

Governor Cuomo, yes, please veto and reject A5036-B / S4845-B. Please support and advance S5169-A / A6821-A, the New York Bill of Adoptee Rights. Please continue to advance the partially clean alternative bills as they promote the civil right of adoptees to act on our own behalf as competent adults. But please know and understand the gravity of the present system of identity theft that is built into New York State adoption since 1935. True equality cannot happen without proper examination of the history behind the present system, the consequences of the present system, and the proper action from our lawmakers.

Governor Cuomo, I was born January 7, 1956 and adopted as Joan Mary Wheeler January 14, 1957. I legally reclaimed my name of birth June 13, 2016, but my medical record of live birth is still locked up by New York State.

I lost my mother at my age of three months due to her early death. I lost my entire family due to adoption. I lost my identity due to adoption. Haven’t I lost enough?

Governor Cuomo, I hope you realize what all adoptees lost because of adoption. Please establish a committee to begin to dismantle the 1935 law that forever strips all New York adoptees of our birthrights.

Please restore adoptees’ civil rights to be who we were born to be.

Thank you for taking the time to read my letter.

Most sincerely,

Doris Michol Sippel

New York adoptee born, adopted, reunited, and currently living in Buffalo, New York

 

My Response to Jayne Jacova Feld’s article on New Jersey’s Fight to Unseal Adoptees’ Birth Records

This undated article by Jayne Jacova Feld appeared in my email inbox on October 31, 2014: Opening Up – Bringing the fight to unseal adoption records to life.

This is my response:

Typically, this article confuses reunion with civil rights. The civil right to one’s sealed birth certificate is not the same as reunion or contact. A person who wishes no contact has a right to be left alone. A person who wishes to unseal their sealed birth record still must ask a court for permission, or abide by restrictive laws that allow release of uncertified sealed birth certificates under specific restrictions.

Closed adoptions are indeed performed today as many adoptive parents request no contact at any time with the natural parents of their adoptee.

Open adoptions do not mean open records.

Adoptees are not only illegitimates born to not-married parents. We are legitimates born within a marriage, half orphans, full orphans, adopted by step parents, and older children adopted out of foster care. To lump all of us under the umbrella of persons born to “unwed” mothers is to keep the stereotypes alive.

Except for Kansas and Alaska, every single adoptee in America suffers the injustice of their actual birth certificate automatically sealed at the finalization of adoption. Even in Kansas and Alaska, every single adoptee in America is automatically issued a new, amended, birth certificate indicating, falsely, that the new parents gave birth to the child named. Many adoptees’ actual birthdates are changed, as well as birthplace, and most adoptees’ names at birth are changed to reflect new identities picked by adoptive parents.

In the few states that have passed laws “allowing” adoptees “access” to their sealed birth records, these adoptees are not given certified copies of their actual birth certificates. They are given uncertified copies which are stamped on the front with one of the following in big bold letters: “VOID”, “Not For Official Use”, “For Genealogical Use Only”. While many adoptees jump for joy over the fact that they are able to unseal their previously sealed actual birth certificates, their elation over seeing their birth certificates for the first time in their lives should be tempered with the realization that their legal birth certificate (the one that was falsified at the time of finalization of adoption) overrides the uncertified birth certificate that they now have in their hands.

There is a big difference between a mere knowing the truth of your origins (by “winning” the right to an uncertified birth certificate that was previously sealed) and actually reversing the oppressive laws that instituted sealing and falsifying adoptees’ birth certificates around the USA beginning in 1930, state by state.

Many adoptees, like me, advocate for the total restoration of our civil rights. We want our actual birth certificates to be reinstated and certified by our government. And we want our falsified birth certificates to be rescinded. Some of us want adoption certificates to replace them, others want to rescind their adoptions altogether.
As for the Catholics who want control: I was conceived within a marriage, yet your one-sided attack on “unwed” mothers devalues my birth, and that of adoptees who aren’t in your narrow focus of being born bastards.

As for “birth” parents who want to redact their names from birth certificates: your name, whether you want it there or not, was recorded within five days of birth on a government document recording the fact that you gave birth. When you signed relinquishment papers in the courtroom, you lost all rights to the person you gave up for adoption. You did not retain the right to dictate to that person 50 or more years after birth. All persons over the age of 21 are of legal age and are not bound by parental authority.

Lastly, the first advocacy group was not Adoptees Liberty Movement Association, as stated in this article (Opening Up – Bringing the fight to unseal adoption records to life), but rather Orphan Voyage, founded in 1953 by adoptee and social worker Jean Paton.

I was very fortunate to have known Jean Paton. She was a delightful lady with a quiet sense of reserve. She deserves recognition as the one person who started the adoptees’ rights movement in America. Others followed and we now have a very extensive network of activists and organizations. Readers may be interested in reading about her life in a hardcover book written by historian E. Wayne Carp: Jean Paton and the Struggle to Reform American Adoption (January 2014).